New research just published by the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) has revealed that even in the ongoing economic downturn, the demand for outdoor recreation is growing and the outdoor industries, from equipment manufacturers to retailers to holiday providers, have a good future.
Despite the general outlook and household finances tightening, the UK outdoor sector is showing signs of weathering the storm and spending on outdoor pursuits continues. In excess of half (54%) of the survey* respondents indicated that they ‘did not’ intend to reduce spending on outdoor products this year.
Results show that overseas family holidays, which are often the first to be axed in times of cutbacks, have led to an increase in the number of people choosing to stay at home or take what has now been termed a ‘staycation’ - the economical alternative to the traditional holiday. Many people (and families) that previously chose an overseas holiday have reverted to the UK for holidays or family weekends away. A significant number of these include or are centred around outdoor activities.
In addition to domestic holiday choices, the outdoor sector has also benefited from the weakness of the pound as tourists from the Euro zone holiday in the UK, taking advantage of favourable exchange rates.
In the survey conducted earlier this year, more than half of respondents (53%) said they were more likely to spend more time in the UK this year, against 22% who disagreed. Asked whether they were more likely to increase the number of outdoor breaks in the UK, 52% said yes – only 12% disagreed.
The respondents have also been asked which outdoor activities they regularly take part in where walking came out top with 91% of all adults participating, while 47% said hiking, 29% enjoy road cycling and 22% mountain biking.
Brian Smith, Chief Executive of walking and activity company HF Holidays which is a member of the OIA and supporter of the association’s continuous research, comments: “Research shows that walking is the number one recreational activity in the UK, with 44.5% of adults enjoying a walk of two miles or longer every month.
“At HF Holidays, we continue to adapt our business strategy to reflect that and develop a wide range of walking, cycling and leisure activity holidays to appeal to all ages and levels of ability.
“Our product mix is evolving to meet the growing demand that we are seeing for outdoor activities, allowing us to take advantage of these prevailing and sustained trends. I think that this willingness and ability to adapt to circumstances is an important message for all businesses that are operating in the outdoor sector.”
Louise Ramsay, Outdoor Industries Association director, also adds:
“Like last year’s report, Shaping the Future 2009 provides a snapshot of the market as it stands now, with particular focus on the attitudes and likely future behaviour of core outdoor consumers. It does not provide all of the answers to all of the challenges that face businesses operating in our sector, in what are clearly difficult times.
“However, this report does offer what I believe are some very useful insights into what makes our consumers tick, and I hope that the information contained within it proves to be useful for businesses as they make plans for the future. Shaping the Future will certainly continue to inform the evolving strategy of the OIA and our work to support and build the outdoor industries for the benefit of all.”
Full details and data from the research is made available to all OIA members and a summary is posted on www.outdoorindustriesassociation.co.uk. The data includes regional variations and a range of information on the buying habits of the general consumer population in relation to products designed for the outdoors.
*Consumer survey: During March/April 2009, the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) conducted an online survey on outdoor users’ views and attitudes to buying and product (clothing and footwear) ownership, spend and frequency of purchase. The OIA was supported in this project by Berghaus, Cotswold Outdoor and HF Holidays. Each company included the survey as part of its monthly e-newsletter and/or placed a ‘banner’ link on its website. A total of 3,447 completed replies were received by the cut off date. This figure offers a representative sample of the UK outdoor market.